Virago and Persephone books to readIt’s a rare three-book rather than two-book post today, a) to catch me up and b) because I didn’t have the most words in the world to say about two of these, so it was going to be a bit short otherwise. And I’ve changed the picture to my All Virago/All August image because two out of the three fit in with that challenge, so this is more relevant than the standard TBR picture.

This one will catch me up and I’ll tell you about the lovely Persephone I’m reading afterwards. And I’m proud to admit that even though I spent the entire DAY in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday, and did venture into one bookshop, I have NO book confessions to make!

Geordie Telfer – “Dictionary of Canadianisms”

(24 January 2014)

This was a kind Christmas present to both of us from our friends Madeleine and Mike. Matthew leafed through it too and found it interesting. It’s an amusing but also useful guide to Canadian cultural icons, references and idioms, including French-Canadian ones, mainly ones that all Canadians know of. I was a little confused by the insistence on “eh” as an integral part of Canadian English, as I’ve never known a Canadian to say that to me personally, and I spent many hours recently on a transcription project where all of those taking part were Canadian! They said “right” an awful lot, though, so maybe that’s a regional variant. Maybe a Canadian would like to comment on that.

There was a useful guide to the main areas of difference from US and UK English followed by an alphabetical listing of terms and phrases – both were interesting to read and will be useful in my editing and localising work. The cross-referencing was useful and accurate (not always the case in such books).

Mary Hocking – “Welcome Strangers”

(22 July 1994)

The third in the trilogy (again, my own copy, bought 20 years ago) and we catch up with the Fairley sisters, their mother, aunts and uncles, their various husbands and associates. Hocking is (rightly) celebrated as a novelist of the ordinary, you do still naturally seek for what this is “about”; Alice is a writer, and there is a lot in this book on this subject, as well as an examination of the lingering effects of the various experiences of war on the cast of characters. She’s good on the fear and paranoia that war and the way in which different states behave instil into people.

I still did find it a bit cold and calculating. I can’t work out why I minded, because Taylor and Pym can be quite distanced and their characters are not always attractive. It might put people off a bit (if you don’t like Taylor and Pym in the first place, I’m not sure Hocking is for you) and there’s a lot of authorial comment about her characters, although the almost cubist views of different events from different perspectives is interesting. I’m glad I re-read this trilogy and re-acquainted myself with this author, but I’m not sure that I’d re-read them again.

Not a Virago edition, but a Virago author.

Angela Thirkell – “High Rising” (Virago)

(21 January 2014)

A birthday gift (along with the next two Barsetshire novels) from my friend Ali, after she’d bought some for herself, raved about them and encouraged me to take an interest in them. She was not wrong in doing that! A highly amusing romp of a novel which occupies the mutual overlap in the Venn diagram that comprises the Provincial Lady, Barbara Pym, Miss Buncle and Mapp and Lucia. The heroine, Laura, is rather adored by her creator, probably because she’s a writer herself, but that’s fine, and I personally loved her annoying son Tony, very accurately portrayed with his obsessions with railways and schoolboy friendships. Laura’s fierce independence and sharp comments to her neighbours and publisher are endearing, village life is charmingly portrayed, and it’s a cosy read, perfect for reading when you’re tired after a busy weekend and having a recline on the sofa or are a bit unwell. A nice introduction by Alexander McCall-Smith can be found in this pretty new Virago edition. Note: there are a few hunting references in the book which I know a few people have been bothered by, so just dropping that in. Nothing lurid or celebratory, and of its time. Also anti-Semitic comments which were affectionately used but a little (more) grating (to me), but neither are enough to spoil the read.

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I’m currently reading Ruth Adam’s excellent Persephone “A Woman’s Place 1910-1975” which is a history of issues affecting women. I’ve already learnt quite a lot about suffragettes that I didn’t already know!